A rocky start in the polls for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals has been compounded with intense and vitriolic protests in different parts of Ontario.
The crowds, which have been seen holding signs protesting vaccines and COVID-19 measures have often spewed insults and obscenities towards Trudeau, Liberal supporters and media. At times, they’ve followed him along the campaign trail, but Trudeau said the constant pressure from the outspoken minority hasn’t changed his outlook.
“I can’t back down from standing up for Canadians,” said Trudeau in a press conference on Labour Day. “I won’t back down.”
The most recent protest came in Newmarket, Ont. on Sunday where the Liberal leader, who is seeking a third term, was received with a bevy of boos and cheers.
The tense situation surrounding the protests has became much more prominent following last week when Trudeau was forced to cancel an event in Bolton, Ont. due to security concerns. Despite the serious nature of threats leading to a cancellation, the Liberal leader said he doesn’t intend to allow people who are “anti-science” to rule over the majority of Canadians.
“There is a small fringe in this country that is angry, that doesn’t believe in science, that is lashing out with racist misogynistic attacks,” he said. “The vast majority of Canadians are not represented by them.”
Trudeau hasn’t been the only target of the anti-vaccine movement, with crowds of people showing up outside hospitals. The dozens of protesters in those cases blocked or slowed down paramedics or cut off access to hospitals entirely.
The protests resulted in some patients having to wade through crowds of dozens to get to cancer and other medical appointments.
At a protest earlier in the week in Sudbury, Amy-Lee Campbell who traveled from Sault Ste. Marie told Global News she had attended a number of Trudeau’s speeches of the past few days. Campbell, who insisted she was peacefully protesting said the vaccine passport was the reason she was raising her voice against Trudeau, adding the measure was similar to rape.
“I feel like thinking you can choose vaccinated or not is medical rape,” she said. “Why do they think they can inject a chemical or a vaccine that are inorganic into someone’s body? That is medical rape.”
During his response, Trudeau was particular about his language, too. Instead of calling them protesters, he referred to them as “anti-vaxxer mobs” and called them “special-interests groups.”
“They don’t get to dictate policy of this government,” he said.
Global News’ Abigail Bimman outlined some of the events occurring in Newmarket on Twitter, where she noted protesters were outnumbered by Liberal supporters. Bimman noted protesters were heard calling for women to remove their hijab amid the booing.
While Trudeau has been consistently asked about the need for an election by both media and his opponents, he said the parties all have different outlooks in what they hope to accomplish.
“For people who still wonder whether or not we really needed an election right now, just take a look at the issues and the intensity of debate over so many big issues,” said Trudeau.
As Trudeau doubles down on the need for the election, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said there was little reason to call this election. Singh said Trudeau was already Prime Minister, but he tried for a power grab so he could push forward his mandate.
“The reason we’re in this election is because he didn’t want to help people more,” said Singh. “He just wants a majority so we can help people less.”
While Singh casts blame on Trudeau for the early election call, he also denounced the protests outside hospitals and the anger-filled protests against the Liberal leader.
“When the protests are violent … then it’s completely not allowed. That is not welcome, that is not part of our democracy,” said Singh. “You can’t threaten people with violence, no matter which political party.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole who appears to be in pole position at the current time previously said his party is running a positive campaign and he condemns “any form of harassment and protests the like we’ve seen.” Instead, the Tory leader called for respectful and open dialogue.